Former Texas Governor Rick Perry kicked off his confirmation hearing to lead the Department of Energy this morning by reversing his position on eliminating the agency.
“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry said. “In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”
Perry committed to pursuing a true all-of-the-above energy plan, including the advancement of renewables. In another significant policy reversal, he said he believes humans do play some role in influencing the climate. Perry also underscored that he will protect science and support research to bring new technologies to market.
President-elect Donald Trump may have other plans, however.
Hours before Perry made his comments to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, The Hill published an article on Trump’s proposal to slash government spending, including dramatic cuts to the DOE.
The Trump team’s budget blueprint, informed by The Heritage Foundation, would “roll back funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research to 2008 levels, eliminate the Office of Electricity, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and scrap the Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” The Hill reports.
Senator Debbie Stabenow of (D-Mich) was the first senator to question Perry on the Trump budget proposal, which he seemed to have little or no awareness of.
“Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true,” Perry joked. He added that he views supercomputing as “incredibly important for this country’s security,” and reiterated his commitment to making decisions based on sound scientific and economic evidence.
Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) brought up the Trump budget again, noting the proposed DOE cuts would make it nearly impossible to pursue an all-of-the-above strategy. Perry responded that perhaps the Trump team “will have the same experience I had and forget that they said that,” referring to the time he forgot the DOE’s name during a debate, while vowing to cut the agency.
Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill) also raised Trump’s proposed DOE budget cuts during Perry’s hearing. Perry said he has a history of defending budgets from his time serving as a budget appropriator in Texas. He said he would also defend the functions of the Office of Electricity, even if those efforts took a different name.
“I am committed to the continuation of using brilliant scientists, the private sector and universities in collaborating on finding solutions to challenges… whether on renewables or use of resources in a more efficient, safe, effective manner,” Perry said, while being questioned by Sen. Duckworth.
“We’re counting on you,” Hirono said during the hearing.